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Twyford Down casts shadow over plans for new road building programme

27 September 2012
As protesters gather to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Twyford Down - the protest that lit the fuse for a wave of direct action protests against new roads (1) - plans are emerging of a major new programme of roads building.

Campaign for Better Transport (2) has been tracking and identifying major road schemes across the country, and its online map - currently showing 70 projects - will soon be updated with hundreds more new roads emerging from local authority and Local Enterprise Partnership plans.

Stephen Joseph, Chief Executive for the Campaign for Better Transport, said

“Government has forgotten the lessons they were taught at places like Twyford Down. Major road building is slow, expensive and disastrous for the environment. By allowing a programme of road building by stealth to develop, the Government is setting itself up for long and vociferous fights up and down the country.”

“We need to deal with the real transport problems being faced by local communities. This means fixing potholes in existing roads, investing in decent public transport services and getting freight off road and onto rail.”

The new schemes have not been set out in a single national programme, appearing instead in a series of national and local documents. A significant number are ‘zombie’ roads; revived schemes which have previously been ruled out (3).

Dr Chris Gillham, a veteran of the original Twyford Down protest, said

“Plans for these roads have already been fought and defeated. But like zombies, they keep coming back. Their impacts haven’t changed and local opposition will be just as strong. This weekend’s event at Twyford Down will let people know what’s coming. It will embolden and connect those who do not wish to see local environments destroyed and their towns and cities made even more car-dependent. And it will remind people that collectively taking action can change things.”

ENDS

For further information about the 20th anniversary of Twyford Down event on 29 September, (including details on the day), call Sian Berry 07900 523 496 or sian.berry@bettertransport.org.uk

For details about the wider campaign against new road building contact Andrew Allen, Press Officer, 020 7566 6483 / 07984 773 468, or andrew.allen@bettertransport.org.uk

Notes

1. The Campaign for Better Transport is organising a media event and photo call on 29 September to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Twyford Down and to highlight the threat of a major new road building programme across the country.

The 1992 Twyford Down protests developed in response to plans for an extension to the M3 through a through a highly protected historic landscape near the Wiltshire town of Winchester.

Twyford Down spawned a wave of other protests including the M11 in London, the Newbury Bypass, and Fairmile in Devon. Whilst each of those roads was built, the issues highlighted by the protests meant that by 1997, central Government’s 600-scheme roads programme had been reduced to 150.

2. There are a large number of ‘zombie’ road schemes included in proposals for new building. These schemes have already been dropped or ruled out; sometimes on more than one occasion. More details of the schemes can be found on the Campaign for Better Transport website. They include:

Bexhill – Hastings link road
·         A new 5.6km long single carriageway road between the A259 in Bexhill and the B2092 Queensway in Hastings.
·         The proposed route passes within metres of the Combe Haven Site of Special Scientific Interest, and the noise and visual intrusion of the road would have a devastating effect on the whole of the Combe Haven Valley.
·         The funding bid to the Department for Transport was not approved in December 2011 due to environmental concerns, and it was decided to look at alternatives again. However, after alternative options were blocked from serious consideration by the County Council, the DfT agreed to fund the road in March 2012.
·         Planning permission was granted by local authorities in 2008, after the Secretary of State refused to 'call in' the application for further scrutiny. A Public Inquiry into Compulsory Purchase Orders for land was held in 2009, and the inspector's report has not yet been published. It is expected soon, after funding approval was granted in March 2012. Construction is planned to start in 2012

A303 Stonehenge
·         A scheme to widen a stretch of the A303 past Stonehenge to a dual carriageway. This controversial and expensive project was dropped in 2007. However, local councils and the South West Local Enterprise Partnership are now lobbying central government again for funding.
·         The proposed route goes directly through the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. Only the central 1.3-mile-long section of the new road nearest to the stone circle would have been in a tunnel. The other six miles of the highway would have been bulldozed at ground level, or in cuttings (deep trenches), through the internationally protected landscape around Stonehenge.

Westbury bypass
·         In July 2009 local campaigners succeeded in stopping a proposed £33m Westbury Bypass of the A350 in Wiltshire when it was refused planning permission by the Government due to the environmental impacts of the proposals
·         The road, cutting through the countryside below the famous Westbury White Horse would have destroyed this precious landscape.
·         Three years later, calls for a bypass have resumed, and town councillors have been meeting with Wiltshire County Council to discuss new plans

Arundel bypass
·         Arundel already has an A27 southern bypass built in the 1970s. Local councillors, business people and MPs are proposing a 'bypass of the bypass'.
·         This project was dropped from the Highways Agency programme in 2003 but MPs and councillors are lobbying now for its reinstatement. The proposed road has been included in the West Sussex County Council Local Transport Plan.

Manchester Airport link (M56 to A6 SEMMS road)
·         A new dual carriageway between the M56 near Manchester Airport to the A6 south of Stockport.
·         Funding was announced in the Autumn statement. It is assumed this will be split between central Government and the local authority in the same proportion as the previous agreement, with the PTE (Transport for Greater Manchester) and local authorities contributing about half the cost.
·         The road is part of the new Stockport Core Strategy, but no statutory processes have taken place yet - including consultation on alternative routes. A planning application is, however, expected in 2012.